If I ever meet Paul Simon I have one question for him. I want to know if, after writing the line "The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar," he took the rest of the day off.
Over the past half century, Simon has emerged as one of the two or three finest songwriters of his generation. His skills are singularly unique, a perfect storm of musical and lyrical inventiveness that rarely sounds strained or hurried. In 1968 Simon wrote the song "America" which appeared on the Simon & Garfunkel album Bookends. It is one of a very few pop songs written in free verse; the only rhyme in the song is an internal one, "Michigan seems like a dream to me now."
Five years later, Simon returned to a similar rumination on the nature of identity and the character of the country of his birth. This performance from a 1974 Dick Cavett Show is just about perfect.
Jump ahead another twelve years and the release of Simon's finest album, Graceland. There is a DVD series on the making of classic albums, the one on the making of Graceland is really worth a look. Take a look:
Simon discusses changes in his process that took place around the time of Graceland. Now he would first develop the music, build the track until he was satisfied with the results. Then write a lyric and, if he wasn't happy with the results, remove the lyric and try again, but still have the track that he liked. This was the approach that produced the song "Boy in the Bubble."